Yemen Approves Immunity for Saleh

Posted January 21st, 2012 at 12:45 pm (UTC-5)
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Yemen's parliament has formally approved a law giving President Ali Abdullah Saleh immunity from prosecution, in return for leaving the office he has held for more than three decades.

The law, brokered by neighboring Gulf nations, grants Mr. Saleh complete immunity from legal and judicial prosecution for any alleged crimes committed during his 33-year rule. It is part of a deal signed in November aimed at ending months of political turmoil.

The new law also grants a controversial partial immunity to the president's political aides, although last-minute amendments reduced the scope of that amnesty.

Yemeni parliamentarians welcomed the move and say it follows the plan brought forward by the Gulf Cooperation Council. Parliamentarian Aly Abou Khalifa said the new law will help put the country on the road to recovery.

“This law is an opportunity for national reconciliation and so that the youth can carry out their protests in a safer environment.”

The immunity deal has sparked an outcry by pro-democracy activists who have driven the nearly year-long revolution. They are calling for the president to stand trial for a violent crackdown on anti-government protests in which hundreds of people died.

Yemeni activist Abdo Al Rashidy wants to reverse the legislation.

“We have to work to bring down this law. I will go to the highest court in order to reject this law which is full of mistakes.”

Human Rights Watch criticized passage of the law. It said in a statement the law “sends the disgraceful message that there is no consequence for killing those who express dissent.”

Mr. Saleh is now expected to leave Yemen for Oman, before going to the United States for medical treatment.

Under the Gulf deal, Mr. Saleh has handed authority to Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Hadi is the consensus candidate of major parties in a presidential election scheduled for February.